He's a moose of a man. A six foot six inch, two hundred eighty pound moose. He fills the doorway with his frame. He fills the room with his voice. Unmissable. Rugged. Built his home with his own two hands. A big frame. A bigger heart. Generous to a fault, and only expects honesty in return.
She is a tiny little sprite. One hundred pounds soaking wet. Five feet tall if she stretches, and that is getting more and more difficult. Wiry, opinionated, independent. Courageous spirit in a fragile frame.
And she can bring him to his knees.
She first brought him to his knees was when he was in high school. He was a basketball star. And he had fallen in love...with her daughter, the cheerleader. I don't know if he physically bent his knee to her when he took her daughter's hand, but I do know that he always showed her the utmost respect. That was 1959 and he held his mother-in-law in a place of honor for years to come because she gave him the love of his life.
By 2002 she had said good-bye to a husband. She had done the unthinkable of burying a daughter, her other child, twenty years before; a child stolen by that hideous creature called cancer. And that year she was walking that unspeakable path a second time. That same creature was stalking her only remaining child---his wife. Her grief became a controlling fear and she lashed it out at him in waves. His grief was a crippling anger that he had to say good-bye too early. So the double blow brought him down. Survive, he did--what else would you expect of a moose? Slowly his spirit restored--softer in places, harder in others, but intact. She rallied as well after his repeated promises that he would not abandon her. The vows he had made to the daughter he would uphold to the mother. She felt that she had no one with husband and daughters gone. This son-in-law remained the link to family. The father of her grandsons. The uncle of her granddaughters. This family's patriarch. The solid rock. And although the times were tough, love and perseverance brought them through.
It was fulfilling that promise that brought him down again. At ninety-five she was still a dynamo, although more firecracker than dynamite (all sound and no punch). Convalescing from surgery and rather oblivious of the effort caring for had become, she lashes out in frustration. Chivalrous and honorable he cares for her, trying to keep her out of a nursing home. One evening after dinner, when she is to frail to walk, he carries her over the threshold to go to the car. He stumbles on the stairs. Unsure of how he fell, the fact remains he fell. Instinct tells him to not land on her. He twists around managing to allow her to land on him. She is unhurt. Not a single bruise. He will be down for weeks. The knee broken. A jagged, ugly cut. But even in the hospital, he is concerned for her. He worries who will care for her as he is laid up for eight weeks. He needn't worry.
Chivalry is taught by action. Integrity is learned by watching. Her grandchildren have not missed a life full of lessons. Youngest son says, "I'll take her home." Eldest son and granddaughters say "we'll take our turns." Honoring the promises of dad and uncle. Living the life he modeled for them to live. The generation torch of love and honor is passed.
As I write this, she has settled with one of the granddaughters with the support of the others. He is convalescing at home cared for by his new love and the sons (and grandchildren) that he has taught so well. And although she is cared for, I am certain he is still fretting because he is not "doing" anything. Heal well Papa Bob, you've done a great job!